Just a few questions that have been on my mind lately most especially after listening to a programme on a therapist who works with sexual abuse perpetrators to help them heal. I know its a very controversial subject, those who have been abused have a right to be angry and perhaps hope these people could be locked up forever and the key could be thrown away. However this programme highlighted the wounded psyche of the predator and there are many levels of severity on this particular continuum.
One of the most important points made by the therapist who suffered from an attachment disorder himself was that so often these men (mainly he works with men as the majority of such predators are men) was how they lacked a real sense of self and identity, at the same time many of them being narcissists had no sense of empathy at all for their victims at all and considered them as objects. Most of them had attachment wounds from childhood which put profound limits on their ability to know themselves, like themselves, value others or see others as separate selves with feelings, needs and desires outside the needs and desires of the narcissist/abuser/predator.
When I think about my own attachment and abandonment wounds I think how I am not so different or was not so different to some of these men. The way I am different is that I did have a sense of empathy for others suffering. I have not always attempted to use others for my purposes, but I have gone into relationships with a host of unresolved needs, desires and longing that perhaps were a little too much for that particular relationship and then I have so often chosen those who are emotionally distant, or I have been emotionally distant at times out of fear of being overwhelmed and knowing also on some level that the attachment wounds I carried made the level of my neediness in relationships problematic. I was an ideal candidate for therapy which is really the best place to work on these issues.
Its only lately in therapy that I have been getting a sense of myself as a worthwhile person who has many valid needs and feelings which are all perfectly okay, sadly I was raised in an environment and with parents who didn’t allow me to have a lot of these needs and feelings or just neglected to notice them, pay attention to them or help me grow in understanding of what they were or of how to meet them and express them, Thus I grew up with great deficits in side, feelings of disconnection from my true self and low self esteem. which sadly for many years I covered up with drinking and drugging.
I feel sadness at this time of year and lots of anger too, as it was around this time of year that my marriage finally ended. It was around June 24 that my husband told me while on holiday in the UK that he was leaving me and didn’t love me anymore. He wasn’t going to come back even to help me sell the house or take any of his things, I was just to send them to him. Eventually he came back for a month in July and then left on August 4. It was the final chapter in a long saga where I had tried to break away from my family and build a new life with him overseas, but now I see my emotionally traumatic past and lack of sound emotional development pulled me back here to Oz where my sister was in a home and she was the sister who had been more like a mother to me, but had got so broken herself by failing to take care and I felt such a sense of responsibility for her.
An overdeveloped sense of responsibility is one of the key ‘adult child’ issues that so many of us suffer from. If we came from alcoholic homes or homes in which there was no emotionally present or available adult we had to ‘fill in the gaps’, taking care of things that were not our responsibility and growing up fast while perhaps hiding deeper emotional vulnerabilities needs and feelings inside. In a way it becomes a positive trait if we can use this sense of initiative well, but negative if we learn to focus excessively on others and little on our own needs and developing a strong sense of self. Then there comes a critical watershed time in life were we feel pulled up sort by our so called ‘defects’, those sticking places that keep us stuck in old patterns of other instead of self focus.
It is really not selfish to have a strong sense of self. Those who have no strong sense of self may often accuse us of being selfish if we do, or those who want us to focus on them or agree with them may accuse us of being selfish when we decide we don’t want to do this or that or agree to this or that. A strong person with a sense of self can say ‘No’ gracefully. They know disappointing another is not as important as taking care of themselves when such self care is necessary. They don’t become the martyr or sacrificial victim to the other person’s needs just because they feel this will give them a sense of value or stop other’s getting angry with or possibly abandoning them.
After posting my post on ‘negative ego’ yesterday and reading the comments and after listening to the radio programme last night, I got a much stronger understanding of how being able to have and own my anger was all part of holding onto a strong sense of self and allowing it a voice was a sign that I was beginning to know who I really am and how I really feel inside. Sad to say this is only just starting to happen for me at age 55 and I still have a long way to go as my ‘no’ muscles are not that strong. I still have a lot of inner negative voices that tell me ‘I must not be selfish’ and many other things that are just not nurturing to my self will.
However I have a great therapist and am being helped so much with the ‘will’ aspect by reading the book Soul Without Shame which I have referred to in some other posts. There was a wonderful chapter on will that I read last Monday and I am looking forward to getting back to it as I got a bit blown off course last week by the dental issue retriggering all my head trauma. One of the challenging aspects of having been in the AA programme in the past is that there is a lot of talk about negative self will, it is often called self will run riot. But as sensitive persons I do believe recovering alcoholics have a lot of work to do with strengthening their own will in positive directions, not to run roughshod over others (as there are some that will do that) but to use the will in a positive way in order to serve the needs of the self not in a selfish but in a self assertive way. Boundaries, self care, self esteem these are all such important issues. And our sense of self is often false if it rests on what we do instead of who we really are and what we really feel inside or on a false self we had to develop in order to please others, gain their acceptance or not be abandoned. For recovering alcoholics there is also that issue that so many of us may have a highly developed empathy which in making us over open to energies and stimulation required in the past that with an absence of self understanding we reached for substances to shut down the empathy. Its just an idea I am coming to lately as I am beginning to read and explore more about empathy, psychic receptivity and related issues. So many of us in recovery fall under the banner of high sensitivity.
For those of us invalidated in childhood it is a huge journey to find our way back to a strong inner sense of self value, self love and self acceptance, but I truly believe it is the single most important journey we must take in this life if we are to live with peace, inner connection, serenity and joy.